Booked: Sonny Bill Williams faces three to four weeks on the sidelines for a shoulder charge. Photo: Getty Images
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Sonny Bill Williams’ shoulder once led rugby league’s highlights reel, but now that same tackling technique has come back to haunt the Roosters back-rower who faces four weeks on the sidelines.
Williams could be banned for a month after being charged with a grade-two shoulder charge in the dying stages of the Roosters 28-8 round one loss to South Sydney on Thursday night. Williams collected South Sydney prop George Burgess from a restart of play which rocked the Englishman and was one of a number of times during the match that Williams led with his shoulder into a tackle.
An early guilty plea will mean he misses three games, but if he fights the charge and loses he will be banned for four matches. After banning the shoulder charge last year, the NRL moved in the off-season to clarify what would be deemed illegal by the match review committee in 2014.
An edict issued to all 16 clubs, tackles where an arm is separated from the body will be not deemed a shoulder charge with officials believing such a position indicates an intention to make a legitimate tackle.
South Sydney’s Ben Te’o was cleared after being placed on report for a shoulder charge while Roosters interchange player Napa was also penalised for making contact with his shoulder. Williams was involved in another tackle with teammates Dylan Napa and Aidan Guerra on Souths back-rower Ben Lowe which drew the attention of the match reviewers and the Channel 9 commentary team.
While Williams was not charged – a NRL match review committee member contacted the broadcaster almost immediately requesting extra footage of the first half tackle. An NRL spokesman said it a regular process to request additional footage of incidents from the host broadcaster which would often be communicated during games.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the NRL needed to find consistency on shoulder charges. ‘‘I didn’t get any close ups of Napa’s or Sonny’s. But if they are shoulder charges, fair enough; give them a penalty,’’ Robinson said post-game. ‘‘But the refs missed one of theirs and saw the next two of ours. If they are going to get them, then get them. Napa’s style of tackle is straight arm, separated from the body. They [referees] came about and showed us it was all right. If they come back and say: ‘Yes, they were shoulder charges’, then they need to get that right. But if they are wrong, then they better be careful.’’
Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello and South Sydney’s Dylan Walker will escape suspensions if they accept an early guilty plea after being charged with respective grade one charges. Minichiello was charged with a dangerous contract (raised knee) while Walker came under scrutiny for tripping Williams.
The Roosters host the Eels next Saturday at Allianz Stadium.
Roosters five-eighth James Maloney described his side’s 28-8 loss to South Sydney in Thursday night’s season opener as a reality check for the premiers.
‘‘It’s different to last year," Maloney said. "That game [on Thursday night] was a wake-up call that we probably needed. There has been a lot of talk about stuff that was going to happen a long way away so it brings it home and makes us realise we have got a lot of work to do. We will take some lessons out of that and start working hard.
‘‘I think they were just better across the board in general. I don’t know whether it is the new rules, I don’t think it would have mattered what rules we were playing under they were just better than us.’’